10 things I learnt (part 3)

When I started out 3 years ago to collect stories for I Will Survive from gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Singapore, my primary intention was to bring together stories that could be shared and read by others. I was excited about embarking on the work as I knew what I wanted to do, yet at the same time unsure of how I would be received or perceived. Still, along the way, I somehow managed through and was humbly surprised to have learnt so much from the people I had met; old and new friends, acquaintances and interviewees who readily opened up to me their stories and their lives.

Here’s more of what they have taught me:

3. We have allies.

Reading the stories, it would be easy to imagine that many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Singapore might view those outside the community with some discomfort and distrust.

Realising that these stories also needed to reach out to mainstream readers, I followed the advice of a publisher and invited a few gay-friendly, non-LGBT identified people to share their reflections on the LGBT communities in Singapore.

The choices were obvious, and there was not a moment’s hesitation from any of them to agree to contribute an essay when I approached them. Hence we have a Foreword from Mrs Juliana Toh, Executive Director from the Counselling and Care Centre; Reverend Yap Kim Hao, the retired Bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore; and former Nominated Members of Parliament Ms Braema Mathi and Mr Siew Kum Hong. Additionally, I also approached Ms Leona Lo to share her personal and professional perspectives on transgenderism in Singapore.

2. It’s not just about coming out.

Despite having already come out to myself and others as a gay man, meeting these 21 ordinary people with their extraordinary stories has taught me that coming out is neither the start nor end of a journey. Although important, coming out is just a part of one’s whole identity. There are many ways to live life as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person in Singapore: young and old; Indian and Chinese; single and in a relationship; female and male; Malay and Caucasian; religious and non-religious; transgender and cisgender; Singaporean and non-Singaporean; with and without illness; closeted and out.

 There are just so many ways to BE.

1. The human spirit is indomitable.

How do you put up with months and years of bullying and abuse?

How does one live with a life-long illness?

How do you go on after losing someone you love?

How does one deal with being diagnosed with HIV as a teenager?

How do you cope with pressures from family and society to conform to certain roles, relationships and expectations?

What does one do after reeling back from a suicide attempt?

You survive.

Through their stories, all 21 contributors have shown themselves to be living examples of what people can go through and still thrive, unyielding. They are resilient; indeed it is harder to survive than die, and certainly requires more courage.

*     *     *

 “To survive is to win.” ~Zhang Yimou, Chinese film-maker
 “To survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher
“The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!” ~Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
“Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.” ~Robertson Davies, 20th century Canadian author
“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we’re going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don’t defeat death, they come to terms with it.”~Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Read “10 things I learnt (part 1)”

Read “10 things I learnt (part 2)”

Find out more about the ebook.

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